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Comparison of Homelessness in the U.S and South Africa Essay

The term homelessness has a very wide scope and many different agencies and governments attempt to define it differently. The homeless committee of the city of Montreal adopted some definition of the homeless. Casavant (1999) further translates the definition as “a person with no fixed address, stable, safe and healthy housing for the next 60 days, an extremely low income, adversely discriminated against in access to services, with problems of mental health, alcohol and drug abuse or social disorganization, and not a member of any stable group,” (para 9).

Comparison of homelessness in the U. S and South Africa Having established a fairly clear definition of the homeless, it is paramount therefore that the three types of homelessness be pointed out. First are the chronically homeless whose case is more severe than the rest and they face other problems like drug abuse or mental illness. The other groups are known as the cyclically homeless who have forfeited their homes due to some situation arising from for example a prison term or released unemployed detainees.

The last category are referred to as the temporarily homeless, who lose their dwellings for a very short period of time due to circumstances such as floods, drought and clashes displacement (Casavant , 1999) . The United States of America does face the homelessness issue like any other nation. Statistics on the number of homeless people in the United States of America is never fixed and is ever fluctuating because of the cyclical, nomadic and temporary nature. From recent studies done, the numbers do range between 650,000 to 2. million people depending on factors that have been analyzed above (McCarty, 2005).

The 2004 U. S conference of Mayors study gives the following information regarding the numbers and ethnicities involved. According to the survey that was carried out in all the cities, it was established that the number of homeless people in the United States gradually increased at a rate of 7% per annum in numbers. Of the entire population 41%, were men. 40% of the population was composed of families while only a meager 14% were women.

The youth comprised of only 5% of the population. By ethnicities, the African American population took the big bulk of people with approximately 49% composition. 35% were whites, 13% Hispanics, 2% Native Americans and 1% Asian. According to the survey, also the veterans or old people accounted for 10% of the population (McCarty, 2005). South Africa on the other hand gives a different picture as compared with the United States. The biggest cause of homelessness in South Africa was the adverse effects that were brought along the apartheid era.

The number of people that were living in shacks was put to be between 5 million and 7. 7 million (Nduru, 2010). South Africa is a multi racial nation with both the black community and the white community coexisting together. The black community comprising of ethnicities such as Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and others comprise about 80% of the population while the whites and red heads comprise around 19% of the population according to the Africa community survey of 2007. It has been established that most of the population living in shanty towns is the black community.

In fact, around 80% of South Africa’s population lives below the poverty line and a very huge gap do exist between the rich and the poor (Sherwood , 2003). Conclusion We have observed that the causes and the number of people being affected by homelessness do differ in great detail between the two countries. The United States though a very big country with a huge population accounts for lesser number of people without adequate shelter. Also, the United States’ distribution of homeless people across the ethnicities is a lot fairer than South Africa’s where the biggest of proportions lies among the black community.


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